Independent Political Strategy in the Context of Duopoly Government: the UK Model

In addition to the many systemic hurdles and institutional biases against third party and independent candidates for political office in the United States (ex. ballot access restrictions, the media's duopolist bias, the high costs of campaigning etc.), independents in particular face yet another difficulty that derives from the nature of independent politics itself: almost by definition, they lack the support of the structures and networks provided by a party apparatus. In a lengthy article for the UK Guardian, Stephen Moss reports on the efforts of independents in the United Kingdom to organize themselves against the ruling duopoly parties, and, indeed, against party government as such, with the help of an organization called the Independent Network. Moss writes:

[Independent strategist Jonathan] Scott argues that traditional voting loyalties are breaking down, and that people are ready for a change. "They realise that what they've got is, in essence, a den of thieves, rather than people of conviction and principle," he says. But he does not believe independents are yet ready to challenge in more than a few seats. "The MPs are vulnerable. They're just damned lucky there isn't a well-organised, well-oiled machine to take advantage of it. An independent movement would need far more discipline and far more focus, but that defies its main object in the sense that it's loose and there are no whips."

The contradiction is a crucial one: how can independents pool their resources without becoming a party, the very thing independents believe undermines free thinking? That is the conundrum with which the Independent Network is currently wrestling. The network is the brainchild of Brian Ahearne, a thirtysomething PR man with an office in north London so small he prefers to meet in a pub nearby. "Party politics is self-serving," he says. "It's great for careerist politicians, but not for people who actually want to do something for the constituents they represent." He argues that, as disaffection with the established parties has grown, the way in which independents are viewed has changed. "You can see a very marked difference in the way the media has been reporting independents from previous elections, when we were much more aligned to the Monster Raving Loony party. By having an organisation that promotes the value of independents and showing that we are a credible alternative, people are taking independents much more seriously." [Empasis added.]

On the "About Us" page at the Independent Network's website, we read:

The Independent Network (IN) is a non-profit organisation that provides support to candidates who are not members of political parties. Independent candidates do not have access to a large national party structure with its human and financial resources. The Independent Network was formed to attend to this inequality and will encourage the electorate to acknowledge the success and influence independents are having in Parliament and in local government . . .

public frustration and disillusionment with career politicians and party politics demonstrates an urgent need for independent candidates elected to public office. Members of the public who support non-partisan politics are encouraged to support the efforts of the IN to get more independent politicians elected to public office.

The IN is not a political party and does not impose any political views on supporters or candidates. However, the IN does insist that all affiliates are non-racist and non-discriminatory and have no affiliation with any group or party that embodies beliefs contradictory to these principles.

Perhaps the most similar organization, of which I'm aware, here in the US is the CUIP (i.e. Independent Voting) which has been building a network of independent voters' alliances with state chapters throughout the country. However, CUIP's primary aim is not to elect actual independent candidates for office, but rather to organize independent voters within the structure of the ruling Democratic-Republican regime while working to open up the duopoly system of government through non-partisan reform. Indeed, the CUIP explicitly states that it does not endorse candidates for office:

Does CUIP endorse and/or campaign for candidates? No. We give tactical support to local independent activists and organizations. They may choose to support particular candidates.

It should go without saying, however, that independents will not be adequately represented in government until they have actual independent representatives in government. It should also go without saying that Democrats and Republicans who simply refer to themselves as "independent" are, in all likelihood, nothing more than political charlatans and shysters. Until independents begin to work toward the election of actual independent candidates for office, actively organizing themselves independently of and explicitly against the Democratic and Republican Party machines, they will continue to be nothing more than easy marks for professional shills. If you support Republican or Democratic candidates for office, you are not independent, you are co-dependent.

Naturally, I'd be interested to learn about any group(s) working toward the election of independent candidates for office at any level. So don't hesitate to relay a link in the comments.

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